Cinematographer Content Creation Feature FilmMaker Indie Post

Storage Needs Grow as Indie Filmmakers Find New Opportunities

Content Insider #676 – New Era

By Andy Marken –       andy@markencom.com

“Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans.”  — Cliff Booth, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Columbia, 2019

It’s always a kick when a studio shoots a major project in your own backyard (O.K., not literally your backyard); and we’re looking forward to seeing Matrix 4, which was being filmed in San Francisco until the entire industry shut down but when it’s released next year.

Our kids were hot to get a glimpse of Keanu, but we were more focused on the people behind the scenes that you only see mentioned if you stay to watch the credits stream by. 

Lana Wachowski who wrote and directed the film, will get a lot of attention if the movie racks up the viewer attention Warner is hoping for when it’s released mid-next year.

In a big budget film like Matrix 4, we think there are two really important folks–the executive producer (Terry Needham) and the digital imaging tech/data wrangler (Ethan Phillips).

Never thought much about the EP until a few years ago when we spent some time with Aaron Semmel – Boomboombooya (https://imdb.to/2SXLifH) – and found out this is the person who says yes or no on any expenditure and keeps the project on budget – money and time. 

Budgets – EPs are responsible for two key parts of any video story project – money (left) and time.  Few will dig deeply into the line item budgets unless the highlight page(s) need to be trimmed.  Lots of things can happen to shorten or lengthen the production schedule but it’s okay, “we’ll fix it in post.” 

Even though Aaron says “no” more than he says “yes” to new budget items, he’s really a nice guy–just as we’re sure Terry is.

But talking those guys into buying 10-20TB of more storage is like…

Let’s just say it’s tough.

As for Ethan, the DIT; well, we’re all about storage and now that 90+ percent of today’s video starts and stays digital, visual stories live or die depending on the quality and quantity of storage used. 

So, we like folks who keep track of the rising tide of content that’s being captured, produced and used in today’s video projects.

More filmmakers are shooting in 8K in 16, 24 or 48fps (frames per second), even though they usually downscale the content to 4K or even HD for distribution.  8K ensures you futureproof the project for tomorrow’s viewing when 5G wireless is ultimately universal (years from now). 

In addition, cinematographers like to “overshoot” scenes so there is plenty of content for the production and post people to work with just in case the producer wants/needs to make changes in the final production.

More is Better – Producers and cinematographers have always preferred to “overshoot” their projects to ensure they don’t have to bring everyone back for a reshoot.  With digital cameras, it’s faster and easier to capture everything from several angles the first time.  Of course, it adds to the DIT’s workload. 

Yes, that results in a lot of raw data.

But the DIT does more than swap out flash drives and move copy from solid state to hard drives.

After following Dean (Dino) Georgopoulos, a meticulous DIT, on a project, we saw that the DIT is the go-to person for workflow, systemization, camera settings, signal integrity and image manipulation.

As any producer/director will tell you, the DIT is the person responsible for the original camera data, metadata and the retention of every bit/byte of original, backup and backup of the backup to ensure complete data integrity and achieve the best image quality.

In Matrix 4’s instance, we doubt if anyone wanted to tell Lana or any of the crew that they had to reshoot one of the scenes of Keanu flying through the air because…

But there are only a couple of hundred big budget projects produced each year. 

More films and TV series are in the mid-range category – $10M – $50M.

Last year, Nielsen reported that there were 646,152 video stories produced for network TV, cable, streaming and other outlets.

Films and TV series are only the tip of the iceberg of content produced in the U.S. and around the globe.

Most are produced by indie filmmakers with crews of five to 20 professionals.

Technically, when the studio system deconstructed starting in 1948; everyone, even on the Matrix 4 crew, became an indie.

High, Mid, Low – Today’s content production crews work on tentpole projects and TV series, as well as long and short projects.  It’s often difficult to budget time between paying gigs and personal want-to-do projects and there is a different headcount between studio teams and low-budget filmmakers. 

The new paradigm has opened a whole new universe of opportunities for filmmakers to get their work seen.

Streaming usage more than doubled over the past two years and shows no sign of abating, which is one of the reasons the good indies are busy, real busy.

Only nine percent of the hundreds of thousands of offerings are exclusive to services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, Apple, HBO and the growing list of streamers.

And, about 16 percent are available on standard linear TV.

The bulk­ – more than two-thirds­ – are available through a wide range of video-on-demand services, including YouTube and special interest sources. 

Prestige projects like Matrix 4 are fine, but the new openness has allowed filmmakers to pursue those special projects and still find a place where people can view and enjoy their works.

Shifting Taste – Studios like to do sequels and series because there’s a greater opportunity for releasing the film with predictable profits.  Filmmakers are finding it more satisfying and rewarding to dig deeply into documentaries. 

According to film industry tracker Stephen Fellows, the genres that have enjoyed the greatest growth in recent years have been horror, history, sci-fi, biography and other documentaries.


It turns out that people not only like to watch content where they can see people who look like them, they want to see everything on their screen, including the diverse world we actually live in.

Of course, the added opportunities also mean more of the content is produced on a much smaller budget – $10K – $100K – and with more people doing multiple jobs, often squeezing the production work in between film/TV contracts.

The Lost

Take the 16-minute viral outbreak/zombie film, The Lost (https://bit.ly/2SV1HBt), produced by writer/director Vincent Cortez of Mitchell Street Pictures, that is now premiering at online film festivals.

Standing Together – In The Lost, two youngsters struggle to keep each other safe and their family together as a viral infection spreads around them. 

Filmed over four days with a crew of 10, it took more than six months to complete because of the “interruption” of other contract work. 

The film, which seems to be especially poignant in light of today’s happenings, shows how two resilient children struggle to maintain hope and keep their family together while the virus and outside world threaten their safety. 

In addition to writing and directing the film, Cortez also did most of the postproduction, editing and sound design and mixing himself.

He also served as his own DIT which almost led to a minor disaster.

Polishing Post – Vincent Cortez used Premiere Pro to put the finishing touches on The Lost. 

Following sane filmmaker “rules,” Cortez immediately transfers the SxS card data to a never-touch hard drive and then creates two backups. 

But stuff happens.

While building his Premiere Pro project file two days after the wrap, he discovered that a key video file was corrupted. 

He immediately called Jesse Dana, cinematographer, and fortunately he hadn’t reformatted the card and was able to provide the clean, uncorrupted footage. 

“Even though the SxS cards can be used again and again,” Cortez noted, “we have a firm policy of not immediately recycling cards, offloading the data to our main RAID, backing up to our main Backup RAID and then to a smaller non-RAID drive.

“You just have to check every file immediately, make a backup, then check the quality of those files. Every evening I review all of the day’s clips,” he added, “because you just never know!”  

10/10ths

Even as the transportation industry rushes to develop autonomous vehicles, most folks still like to experience and watch the roar of the engine, squealing of the tires and the rush of cars speeding around the track at eye watering speeds.

Man, Machine – OneRiver Media’s Marco Solorio follows the transformation of a standard off-the-show-floor BMW into a lean, mean racing machine. 

Feature filmmaker and owner of OneRiver Media, Marco Solorio, was able to blend these with his other passion and produce 10/10ths (http://1010thsfilm.com/), a two-hour BMW documentary that has gathered viewer attention and awards around the globe.

Solorio explains for the layperson that 10/10ths is a measurement used in motorsport racing that describes how hard the driver is pushing his car to the absolute physical limit and after that … disaster.

The film follows the Performance Technic team as they transform a perfectly normal BMW street car into a full-fledged competition racecar. 

Solorio’s film has been widely heralded because it makes the viewer feel as though he/she is an integral part of the team that works feverishly to build their first BMW M3 racecar and experience the adrenaline rush of being behind the wheel on the track.

Rigging Cameras – Marco sets up his Ursa camera rig as he prepares to shoot a 10/10ths scene.

EP, director and cinematographer Solorio worked closely with race team owner, Joe Gaffey, and producer/publicist Suzette Mariel, to deliver a film that puts you in the center of the dreams, struggles, and unwavering perseverance of grassroots motorsports.

Also, author of the book, Rigging Your Cinema Camera, Solorio produced the documentary without outside funding using off-the-shelf storage media.

Storage included:

  • 10TB of asset storage
  • 32TB custom workstation RAID
  • 20TB tier 1 onsite backup
  • 20TB tier 2 offsite backup
  • 8TB tier 3 onsite archive
  • 11TB tier 4 cloud backup

And that’s why storage folks like the fact that there are so many indie filmmakers and the demand for their projects continues to grow.

Out-of-Focus

It takes a lot of original thinking, creativity and hard work to make a suddenly alone love story stand out, but cowriters/directors, Geoffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan, did a great job of showing what happens when two people are suddenly alone in, Bokeh.

Love Alone – In Bokeh, a young couple finds they’re suddenly alone, the last people on earth, following a mysterious meteor event. 

Bokeh is the subjective aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image which Orthwein felt best captured with the unfolding of a semi-sci-fi, light humor love story when a couple awaken to find that everyone has disappeared from the face of the earth. 

Shot with the rugged beauty of Iceland as a background, Bokeh was 27 days in pre-production and shooting as the couple struggle to survive and come to grips with the mysterious event. 

To fund the project the two co-producers conducted a Kickstarter campaign to cover the tight production schedule and budget. 

To ensure the film was effective for both widescreen and personal devices (important on today’s streaming world), Orthwein and Sullivan used Canon C300 cameras to take advantage of their low-light capabilities and anamorphic camera adapters for a full cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Final Touches – Orthwein reviews his edits and fine tunes a few transitions in the latest project before the two filmmakers backup the work (a couple of times) and release the film. 

During the shoot and production phases, their hardware included a MacBook Pro and two OWC 16TB RAID units. 

The postproduction and final cut work required “several” months, relying primarily on Final Cut Pro.   

Storage Affair

Whether today’s filmmakers are creating for a theatrical release, pay TV, streaming or any digital content; indies are finding that in addition to a great idea and great talent, they have to have a solid understanding of Semmel’s attention to budget and Georgopoulos’ focus on capturing, storing and protecting all of the scene data and metadata.

Tom Coughlin, of Coughlin Associates, said that whether it’s a big budget studio release or low/micro budget indie film release; fast, reliable and big storage is becoming increasingly important as most projects begin, live and retire as digital content.

Storage Grows – The great thing is with more studios, production facilities and indie filmmakers shooting and releasing a growing volume of projects, the need for storage just keeps increasing–especially when they need to protect raw data, revisions of each segment, insurance copies and backup of the backup. 

There just seems to be something reassuring about seeing your first and second storage in the spare bedroom or in your office.

Perhaps that’s why even when Ang Lee directed Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and insisted in shooting the content at a mind-boggling F 65 raw rate, he installed his primary storage in his home – 49-day shoot with total raw negative size of 404TB.

Home Body – While Ang Lee’s studio is always meticulous in storing and protecting his projects, he still maintains his own personal data center of the captured content at home.  Think of it as his own really big home cloud. 

Okay, that may be “a little” overboard but so is shooting at F65 unless you really, really want to futureproof your content and deliver all the punch possible when 5G is available.   

People around the globe increasingly understand and like idea of free choice rather than a preset bundle goods/services.

That means folks will increasingly turn to a la carte content and will search for and enjoy projects beyond the standard fare of romcom, horror, cops ‘n robber, and western shows. 

Not that those visual stories are bad, but people are watching less live, linear or appointment content and sometimes they simply like a change of pace in their entertainment.

Today’s indie filmmakers have the opportunity to produce the projects they want to produce and projects they “know” people will find interesting and enjoyable.

But even as they put the finishing touches on the final cut, they also acknowledge that Trudi was right when she said, “Naturally, we never succeed, but it’s the pursuit…that’s meaningful.”

Andy Markenandy@markencom.com – is an author of more than 600 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications. He is internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise–especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields. He also has an extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media and industry analysts/consultants.

error: Content is protected !!